Shooting food on a compact camera

This was breakfast this morning! There was just a little chilli left over from dinner last night and hardly worth keeping, but inspiration struck and I popped it into a pan, made a dip in the middle of it and broke a free-range egg into it. It looked so nice I grabbed the nearest camera to hand, the Fuji F100fd. Taking food pics with a compact camera is a rather uncertain business – you can’t count on a perfect result – and this isn’t perfect, but I think it is good enough to share the pleasure I had in the cooking.

Tips for getting the best out of a compact camera for shooting food.

  1. Turn the flash off: Using on-camera flash almost never improves a food shot. On a sophisticated camera with adjustable flash a tiny blip can occasionally produce a useful bit of fill but that’s for experts. In nearly every circumstance you will get a better result using daylight or well diffused room lights.
  2. Zoom in: Wide angle lenses rarely flatter food. Most compact cameras bias their macro mode to wide angle and many people think this is therefore how to get close to food in their photos. Much better however is to frame the shot from a distance, using a ‘long lens’ setting. This has the effect of tightening the composition and preventing verticals being distorted.
  3. Shoot against the light: Obviously not directly into sunlight, but usually food looks best when it the light is coming from sufficiently far behind to reflect on shiny surfaces. This creates highlights and leaves darker shadows which emphasise texture.
  4. Compose carefully: Make sure your picture has a focal point, a ‘hero’ area which the eye is drawn to and which is sharp and correctly exposed. Also check around the edges of the composition to make sure you have only those things in the shot that you intend.
  5. Check the white balance: Some cameras are better than others at measuring light temperature. Experiment with the settings on your camera to get the most neutral result and if necessary correct afterwards. Programmes like iPhoto on the Mac or Picasa on a PC have easy ways of doing this.

I plan further pieces about these various tips individually – so check back later!

Another compact camera snap – my mother’s delicious lunch at the Woodcock, Iden Green near Benenden, Kent. I was rather envious, my guinea fowl with wild mushrooms in a brandy sauce was excellent but I lusted after the scallops! Unfortunately the focus is not quite right on this – one of the hazards of using a compact camera! It should have been spot on on that hero scallop in the centre!


7 Comments Add yours

  1. David says:

    Good tips – especially about shooting long, and the back light and the hero spot.

    Do you have a favourite compact for this kind of shot?


  2. Currently I am using the Fuji Finepix F100fd which does as well as any compact I have tried. I also have the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 which has a brilliant lens but is better in good light and I have been reading great things about the new Fuji FinePix F200EXR. And the Lumix LX3 is supposed to be excellent.


  3. myphotoscout says:

    Wonderful tips. I prefer to eat food, but I think those tips will come in handy for product shots as well (for the casual ebay seller).


  4. Thanks a lot for the tips, they´re extremely useful for people like me (totally amateur)with a food blog, a humble compact camera and lots of food pictures to take which I wish they look as good as they taste…
    Best regards from Spain.


  5. Fibeckett says:

    I bought a Fuji FinePix F200EXR recently to replace my Fuji Finepix F30 which jammed while I was on a press trip. I wouldn’t say it was quite as good but I’m getting more used to it. Now the F30 has been repaired I alternate between the two and am surprised (as an amateur) by the different results I get in exactly the same conditions.


  6. In what way do you not find it as good?? I am intrigued as on paper/screen(!) it really seems to have some great new capabilities.


  7. Roof Helmet says:

    i always visit food blogs because i always like to do some home cooked meals .”,


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